Paul had more influence than Jesus!
Many scholars believe the Apostle Paul had extraordinary influence as Christianity advanced from the nucleus in Jerusalem toward regions such as Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the world. Within Paul's undisputed letters of Romans, I&2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, I Thessalonians and Philemon we discover amazing and courageous statements of faith about Jesus, the followers and how God chose to continue to work through men and women. No one ever disputed that the Apostle Paul was a real person. No one ever claimed he was crazy. No one ever made any statement that the Apostle Paul lied or invented the story. No one could ever do what Paul did. His entire life validated his belief.
Paul did not create Christianity. Christians didn’t create Christianity. The resurrection created Christianity.
Before the resurrection, there were no Christians.The resurrection of Jesus Christ set Christianity apart from any other belief system. The resurrection of Jesus Christ was such a powerful event, the early followers referred to dying as ‘falling asleep.’ (I Corinthians 15:6) Because of the resurrection of Jesus, Christians believed they too would rise from the dead. They had confident assurance. Many faithful men and women were eye witnesses who watched the Romans execute Jesus. No one disputes the Romans nailed Jesus to the cross in a very public, painful excruciating process. No one disputes the death of Jesus Christ. The resurrection changed everything. Jesus shocked and awed during his resurrection appearances. No one expected to go to the tomb and see no body. More than his body was raised. Questions were raised. Questions about belief in God challenged skeptics and fired up followers to share the news that Jesus was not dead but alive.
It is within the questions we find belief.
You might question the claims of Christianity. Maybe you once gave your life to Christ praying with a trusted mentor or during a Sunday school class. For others of you, it was a camp experience or on a mission trip that you experienced Jesus Christ as real and life changing. But, that was a long time ago and now you have questions. You’ve faced college scrutiny. You were exposed to life experiences and came out the other side questioning your belief. Perhaps your confidence was stolen because someone challenged you and you felt embarrassed by the simplicity in which you first believed. Past hurts, habits and hang-ups tend to clutter the hallways of our judgment with guilt and shame reducing us to powerless devotees of some ancient belief system no one considers credible.
Maybe you never truly believed any of it. You went along because you loved the people who seemed to be so devoted to the cause. You attend Easter and Christmas with the family to placate a family member but you’ve never really allowed any of it to penetrate your heart, soul, mind or strength. Perhaps you’ve been far too suspicious to accept the claims that Jesus could rise from the dead, appear to many faithful witnesses and then ascend to heaven. But, the confidence in which you once doubted Christ and Christianity is now shaken by the culture of deception. A lie mixed with the truth erodes everything. Deception creates mistrust. Now, you’re looking for truth. You will find it like many others when you experience it for yourself. This truth remains: his tomb is still empty.
Join us for an incredible celebration Sunday. We will proclaim Jesus Christ is risen from the dead—foolishness and a stumbling block for the unbeliever but to those of us who are being saved…it is the very power of God! (1 Corinthians 1:18)
For further reading: 1 Corinthians 15:1-22, Galatians 1:11-24, Acts 4:8-20, 2 Corinthians 3:1-6, Romans 6:1-10, 1Thessalonians 4:13-18